Project Last Mile and Partners share Coca-Cola business models to help governments make medicines available where they are needed most


In support of World Health Day on 7 April 2019, Project Last Mile is helping to deliver life-saving medicines and supplies to hard-to-reach communities across Africa, using tools developed in the beverage industry to improve health systems.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) focused on universal health coverage during this year’s World Health Day. Key to achieving this is ensuring that everyone can obtain the care they need, when they need it, right in the heart of the community.


“Almost every person knows the Coca-Cola brand and could probably find one of Coca-Cola’s range of products close by. For the past few years, we have tapped into this expertise to assist Governments in several African countries to ensure life-saving medicines are consistently available and that key health services, such as HIV testing, are sought after by the community,” says Adrian Ristow, project director for Project Last Mile. “Through Project Last Mile, Coca-Cola’s expertise in distribution, logistics and marketing is shared to build governments’ capability and systems to save lives in the fight against diseases such as HIV, TB, Malaria as well as those that can be prevented through child immunization. ”


Project Last Mile is a unique partnership between The Coca-Cola Company, The Coca-Cola Foundation, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It aims to extract and apply key private sector lessons for the benefit of reaching millions of patients accessing public health services in eight African countries.


eSwatini, for example, has the highest HIV prevalence amongst adults worldwide. In 2017, 27,4% of those between 15-49 years old were living with HIV. In the same year, 15 – 24-year-old women were 5 times more likely to be living with HIV, compared to men of the same age. Project Last Mile is partnering with the eSwatini Ministry of Health to inspire and educate young girls to make their health – both body and mind – a top priority.


By leveraging Coca-Cola’s expertise in strategic marketing and talent management, Project Last Mile supports the government’s drive to increase demand for critical health services for HIV prevention, treatment and care. A team which included the Ministry of Health, National Emergency Response Council on HIV and AIDS, and leading brand agency, FCB, developed a world class communications strategy known as ‘Girl Champ’, where adolescent girls and young women are encouraged to utilise healthcare services.


Meanwhile, in South Africa, millions of people require routine access to medicines for HIV and other chronic conditions, leading to congested health facilities and negatively impacting quality of care. Other factors which make it difficult for patients to access medicine include the cost of transport and distance of communities from health facilities.


In 2016, Project Last Mile partnered with USAID to support the South African National Department of Health (NDoH) and a number of NGO partners on a program that aims to improve the distribution and dispensing of chronic medicines through the creation of patient-friendly alternative pick-up points for patients, in particular for ARV treatment. Since 2016, the number of patients enrolled in the program has increased five-fold.  More than 2 million patients receive their medication from 1050 existing pick up points with 463 more being activated to meet patient needs.


“When the capabilities and expertise of the private sector are intentionally shared and applied to address key bottlenecks in medicine and health service availability, this can contribute to a significant improvement in the efficiency of public health services. We aim to develop a replicable model that inspires more of these types of partnerships”, says Ristow.

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